Image of an older women with walker in long-term care setting interacting with healthcare provider

Researchers at the University of Washington and the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute will test a project to increase clinician and patient awareness of drugs known to increase falls risk in older adults with dementia.

An offshoot of the researchers’ Stop-Falls program, the new program involves a nudge intervention, using prompts aimed at reducing the use of drugs that affect the central nervous system, such as sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medications and pain relievers in patients with dementia, according to project lead and geriatrician Elizabeth Phelan, MD, of the UW School of Medicine.

In the project test, clinicians will receive medication decision support materials, and their patients and caregivers will receive educational materials. The investigators will subsequently track the number of falls among study participants that require medical attention and analyze the prescribing practices of their physicians.

Many clinicians and their older patients “are not aware that medications are a key contributor to falls,” Phelan said in a statement announcing the test program. “The goal of this project is to find out what approaches are effective to reduce the burden of those medications that contribute to falls in this population.”

About 1 in 4 older Americans report a fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And among approximately 1.6 million residents in U.S. nursing facilities, about half fall annually, reports the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

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